Sandra Guzman: Preaching the Gospel of the New Latina

BY Crystal Rodriguez

Photo Credit: Gloria Pazmiño | The Manhattan Times

A Puerto Rican goddess was in our midst, last week, at the Rio Penthouse Gallery. Actually, said Sandra Guzman, Latinas, all women, are queens and should recognize their regality.

Guzman introduced her newest edition of The New Latina Bible: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family, and La Vida here in Washington heights. The book has the potential to redefine the Latina woman and her roles in society – in the uptown community. The women in attendance listened eagerly to Guzman finally receiving the validation they’ve wanted to hear all their lives: They are exquisite.

This realization or rather discernment is the beginning of a ripple effect. A precursor to an enlightenment of Latina women right here in Washington Heights.

Sandra Garcia, executive director and CEO of NoMAA, introduced the “wonderful writer” and her “old friend” to the Uptown Artstroll crowd. Garcia after reminiscing about old parties and past times, turns to Guzman, almost personally addressing her rather then the crowd, “I am an admirer” says Garcia. Guzman has been “representing the voice of Latinas for many years and producing literature to help us in our daily lives” says Garcia. Garcia ends as she does all the Artstroll events, with thanks on all of our behalf. “We love you and appreciate you”.

Naturally, an event-taking place in uptown Manhattan was bound to turn bilingual. “Somos orgullosos de tener Sandra… Este libro es fantastico, como una biblia” said a representative of the Dominican Women’s Development Center.

“This,” says Guzman “is the new generation of Latina”. The audience looks among themselves, meeting each other’s eyes, in agreement and recognition.

“ The joys of being a nueva Latina”

She wrote the novel, continues Guzman to “keep a book [she] wrote with love alive”. The book begins with her journey as a woman and details this growth and exploration.

Guzman dives into “taboo” topics straight away. She uncovers the imbalance between the male and female in our Latin culture. “Boys are very much celebrated,” said Guzman. While girls “ learn to be ashamed of our bodies…we grow up not celebrating who we are, our essence,” said Guzman.

Guzman explains that in our culture the daughter is raised to recognize her role as “la sirvienta”. Latina girls are taught to always remember their duties in the home.

Guzman challenges this old time expectation of servitude. The times are changing, not only must the Latina change but her role in society must also accommodate her newfound identity. First things come first, explained Guzman. “If the center of the family is healthy then everything around you will become healthier,” said Guzman. To ensure the prosperity of the family the woman must make herself “whole and well”.

Guzman’s growth and response to change is evident in the two added chapters of her new book. She sheds light on the “Elephant[s] in our living rooms”.  Just as the first edition, she tackles subjects that are considered unmentionable, one being depression and the other domestic violence. She touches on these subjects because she feels Latinas “ don’t take it seriously” said Guzman.

“Washington Heights is the epicenter for domestic violence,” said Guzman. Right here, in uptown Manhattan “domestic and dating violence” is occurring. She then goes on to share a frightening reality: “80% of domestic violence takes place in our homes and is completely legal”. The reason for this Guzman goes on to explain is because “…extreme jealousy is very much a part of our Latin lives”.

All of these assertions put into question our very own community here in uptown. The verbal abuse endured and the encouragement of the macho man attitude must come to an end. The reason? Latina women “ are exquisite, divine and beautiful”. And “ I will be honored as the queen that I am,” said Guzman proudly. Her last piece of advice before beginning the reading was “ Never go out with cabrones”.

The audience sat at the edges of their seat. It was story time on the reading rug all over again. Her reading begins by laying it all out there: “It is difficult being a Latina today”.

The book dives into the “hate and injustice” and the struggle against ethnic profiling. But what stood out among all the hurt and crime against Latina women, is the “collective soul”. Latinas, and Latin people share in a collective soul and they should not “let those stereotypes infect your soul” reads Guzman.

All of the women and men in the room shared their existence in a “cultural middle”. Everyone in attendance belonged to their homeland and Latin culture but also to America and the American culture. The new Latina is a blend “layers and layers of history”… “Three languages”…and “home cooked meals”.

Guzman closed the reading with a question “Why don’t you love yourself enough?” No one in the crowd moved as the question sunk in. As the audience mulled over the question, Guzman took it a step further. Guzman offered up a 30-day challenge “ to say today I’m going to come first”. “Who here is going to take the challenge,” said Guzman, the audience raised their hands.

“The new Latina seeks to fulfill her greatest potential”

After the reading, came the question and answer portion. Women and men shared experiences and uncertainties. Together the audience worked to understand what this new realization meant in their lives and how to move forward into the future.

Some questioned the disparity they face between generations. Others spoke of the difficulty in balancing between two cultures. In the end, the audience agreed that la reflexión was our key to the future. To Incorporate self-examination and exploration in our daily lives.

The evening ended with a beautiful poem performed by Rosita Romera. She left the audience with these last words…

“La vida empieza cuando todos somos iguales”

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